I caught a matinee today oh boy! It was Café Society, Woody Allen’s latest. It was just the thing I needed to lift my spirits. It had me smiling all the way through. I thought the acting was very good. Even Steve Carell, who I never really cared for, is starting to grow on me a little bit. Kristen Stewart, who is everywhere, was believable as the love interest. Blake Lively was lively as Veronica, the other love interest. And Jessie Eisenberg sure plays a mean Woody Allen. But the real star of the show was the cinematography. And the cities. It was essentially a tale of two cities. Los Angeles and New York in the 1930’s. Guess who won? New York. Complete with that iconic shot of Manhattan from the Brooklyn side framed lovingly by the Brooklyn Bridge. Not since Manhattan have we been graced by such a beautiful image.
It was photographed by acclaimed cinematographer Vittorio Storaro, favored cinematographer of Bernardo Burtolucci, for whom he photographed Last Tango in Paris. Mr. Storaro has won Oscars for Apocalypse Now, Reds, and The Last Emperor. This was Woody’s first foray into the digital world.
The plot was pretty standard stuff. Jewish boy goes to Los Angeles to work with his uncle in the movie business, falls in love with a secretary, things don’t work out; he goes back to New York and gets into the nightclub business. Falls in love another beautiful girl by the same name. Complications ensue. What sets this material apart is the scintillating dialogue which is by turns clever, funny, and hilarious. Music to my ears. Oh, and speaking of music, the sound track is a master compilation of some of the best music from the era, Just wonderful.
Here is an example of some of the tete-e-tete between the characters and or other funny lines.
Bobby: What are you doing later?
Veronica: There is no later. It’s 1:30 am. I am usually in pajamas by 2.
Bobby: I like pajamas. What kind of beds do you like?
The narrator, who is the Woodman himself, occasionally muses: Socrates said the unexamined life is not worth living. The examined live is no bargain either. Or how about this one: Life is a comedy written by a sadistic comedy writer.
Bobby’s big brother Ben is a gangster who gets convicted of murder and is sentenced to be executed in the electric chair. While in prison he converts to Christianity because there is no afterlife in the Jewish tradition. Ben’s mother is lamenting this fact when she says to her husband, “Ben is going to be executed in the electric chair and he has converted to Christianity and I don’t know what’s worse!” Pure genius!
In the last scene Bobby, is celebrating New Year’s Eve at his club while Vonnie and Phil are at a Hollywood party. Bobby and Vonnie in are in New York. Bobby in New York and Vonnie in LA are staring wistfully into the middle distance. More people die of unrequited love each year than of tuberculosis.